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Are You Being Greenwashed By Your Web Host?

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Come on, admit it: you want to save the planet. Somewhere, deep inside all of us, there’s a tiny voice telling us that “going green” matters… that we can make a difference.

That’s what web hosting companies are counting on anyway. Show me a hosting company that hasn’t announced:

We’re Going Green!

…and I’ll show you a marketing department that’s about to get fired. It’s the latest trend – no, it’s more than a trend: it’s considered de rigeur these days to “tell your sustainability story.” “Going Green” is a particularly popular form of Corporate Social Responsibility, a broader term that can also include charitable donations and volunteering in the community… all those good things that make us believe Big Business has a big heart.

Why Are Web Hosting Companies Going Green?

From GoDaddy to that small hosting company you’ve never heard of, they’ve all jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon, and they’re all making sure the world knows about it. Given the stats on this topic, it’s certainly understandable. Take a look:

  • A surprisingly high percentage (roughly half) of the population thinks a company’s “greenness” is important when choosing a product or service.
  • You double your chances of making a sale to a Millennial if your company has an eco-friendly reputation. Millennials are the largest generation, after Baby Boomers.

The Varying Shades of “Going Green”

The Darkest Shade: Greenwashing

When you look at HostGator‘s page on going green, you see lovely images of leaves, grass, and wind turbines. You also see this phrase:

All of our shared and reseller servers are now 130% wind powered!

Wind-powered servers – wow! You can’t argue with the greenness of that… or can you? By reading the smaller print, you’ll discover that HostGator has purchased RECs. This stands for Renewable Energy Credits.

RECs are a type of donation to a renewable energy company. HostGator is offsetting its energy consumption, but they haven’t replaced the electricity-powered servers with wind-powered servers. They haven’t set up wind turbines in the HostGator parking lot.

But it appears that’s what they’d have you believe. This is called “greenwashing” and it’s particularly shameful given the power of green marketing and its potential to do good in the world.

An Honest Shade: Being Upfront About RECs

Now let’s go on over to A Small Orange‘s “green initiative” page. They too announce that they’ve gone green, and even have a nice wind turbine graphic too.

Although A Small Orange is owned by essentially the same company that owns HostGator, there’s a bit of a difference here. A Small Orange isn’t trying to fool you: they actually explain what RECs are:

ASO has chosen to go a step further and match 150 percent of the electricity it uses with renewable energy, in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). … for every kilowatt hour of electricity used to host your website, another one and one-half kilowatt hours of electricity is generated by renewable energy projects and delivered to the power grid.

See? Nice and honest.

The Ultimate Shade: Actually Using Renewable Energy Sources

Finally, we come to AISO.net, a web hosting company who went whole hog and set up solar panels…on site. They don’t even need energy credits because they’re producing their own electricity!

So now that you know the varying shades of green when it comes to web hosting companies “going green,” remember who’s greenwashing you and who’s being upfront about their sustainable practices.

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